Friday, November 22, 2013

Inspired By Teo Bishop

I've been thinking quite a bit about Teo Bishop's recent re-conversion to Christianity—perhaps quite understandably, because part of the story of his spiritual journey rather strongly resembles my own.  Well, on the surface, at least.

I've never been a frequent reader of his main blog, Bishop in the Grove.  A friend of mine has frequently linked to posts of his on Facebook over the years, so I have a passing familiarity with his writing, and I've thought that he's said a number of pretty smart things.  But he hasn't really loomed that large in my concept of the Pagan world.  So when he announced that he'd gone Christian again, I didn't feel the same sense of betrayal as some of my fellow Pagans—which I'm guessing would include at least some who saw him as some kind of Pagan authority—did.

Granted, the fact that I didn't feel betrayed is very much related to the fact that I walk a reasonably blended path, and that his Christian denomination is another face of the one I've been involved with for five years now.

Still, I have to admit that I'm having trouble understanding precisely why people have felt betrayed by his choice.  I mean, I understand that his words have meant tremendous things to other Pagans, and although I'm not tremendously familiar with what he's written so far, I do respect him as a thinker and a writer.  But it's a choice that he made for himself, one that made sense to him as he exists right now.  I haven't heard that he calls what is now his former path evil, Satanic, or anything else of the sort; he has done nothing to us. What he did was for himself.  And as I understand it, he is still sharing his thoughts and his reflections with those who are interested in reading them.

And, truth be told, I rather appreciate the honesty with which he's approached the subject, though I have to admit that I'm not entirely in love with the way that he describes himself as a "cradle Episcopalian who became Pagan only to feel a call from God again"—but then, it's his identity, so he's really the only one who gets any say in the matter.  I just dislike the implication that the Divine does not call to Pagans as well, when that, in my experience, is very much not the case.  But he could have kept quiet about his increasingly Christian view of the world.  He could have kept writing as Teo  the Pagan.  He could have gone into denial about what he was thinking and feeling.  He did none of these things, and I do think that it's a mark of a certain kind of courage that he made the choices he did.  He owned what he was going through, and he continues to do so.

Although my spiritual life exists with a certain amount of skepticism, for a very long time, I've tended to think of the Divine as wearing many faces—a sort of "Deity behind the Deities," if you will.  And I've thought that perhaps it reveals itself to us in the ways in which we're best suited to understand it.  Some people see it best in the Triple Goddess (the well-known Maiden-Mother-Crone triad) and—frequently, though not always—her consort, who may or may not have horns.  And sometimes this is the form in which I best understand it, though to me, that Goddess has a hidden fourth face, and I think it's a mistake to restrict the God to one single phase of life, especially when the Goddess is granted the full spectrum of cisgendered and cissexual female existence.  Other times, I look for the guidance of Gods and Goddesses who are associated with wisdom and knowledge; often, I'm especially drawn to Ceridwen, who isn't technically a Goddess unless you're Wiccan, which I am not, but whose story particularly resonates with me for a number of reasons.  (Actually, I often find myself drawn to Celtic deities and mythological figures in general, but, for reasons that I don't entirely understand, I find myself most drawn to the ones from Welsh folklore and myth.)  Sometimes the faces that the Divine wears for me are the faces that I grew up revering—Jesus of Nazareth and his mother Mary.  (Again, Mary's not technically Divine in Christian cosmology, but I grew up Catholic, and my favourite prayers were always the ones that were directed to her: the Memorare, Hail Holy Queen, and, of course, the ever-popular Hail Mary.)  Sometimes I don't feel like it needs a face or a name for me to feel that I've felt its touch or its inspiration.

Perhaps that, then, is why I've had very little intellectual or emotional upset about the fact that a fellow Pagan has gone back to the Christian fold.  (Indeed, Bishop himself seems to be reluctant to embrace any single label; in an article I read this afternoon about his conversion, he states that neither the statement that he's turned into one of the Christians who's alienated Pagans, nor the statement that the Christians have won back a soul for the team, seems to ring true to him.)  This is his journey, and although I can't say that I plan to follow it any more closely than I had been doing before, I certainly wish him well.